Not many pilgrims know this, but in an inconspicuous building next to the Trapeza of Vatopedi is one of the most interesting places of Athos, the Treasury of Vatopedi, with numerous artifacts of the highest quality, worth displaying in a top museum.
And what is so special, that hardly anyone knows about its existence. Try searching the internet for something about this place and you will find almost nothing. Even during a visit to Vatopedi, its existence is not really promoted. You have to ask to get the doors opened, or, as in our case, be lucky enough to have our liaison in Vatopedi, Father Matthew, who holds the keys.
Unfortunately I cannot say what exactly is in the Treasury (also because it is forbidden to take pictures inside), but there are precious and old objects, books and icons. If you want to be a little more informed, watch this documentary from CBS: At 25:12, Father Matthew enters after first opening the special lock with the four keys and shows interviewer Bob Simon around the Treasury.
The Treasury is next to the trapeza. The building is also used for olive oil storage on the ground floor. And one time I had to sit here and eat dinner because the trapeza was full.
The entrance to the Treasury on the first floor. The building was renovated in 1915 at the expense of the Catalan community, because they had plundered Athos several centuries before.
The plaque with the text about the renovation by the Catalans. If you go up the stairs to the first floor you’ll have to wait for the door and locks to be openend. Here are some cabinets in the hallway with less valuable objects, including old clocks, mortars, candlesticks and a chair.
There is also a cabinet with original and famous copper plates of Vatopedi for printing etchings, see pictures below.
The following photos are screen prints of the documentary 60 Minutes, to give an idea of the interior of the treasure room.
Father Matthew tells in the documentary that it used to take four monks to open the door of the treasury and that each monk had one of the keys in his possession, to prevent treasures from being stolen. Now father Matthew has all the keys in his possession: opening the door goes in several steps and gives a great deal of ‘Harry Potter’ feeling.
Father Matthew and Bob Simon enter the Traesury, after opening a second door, hidden behind a cupboard.
The Treasury with icons, objects and coins. The three rooms look like a modern museum inside.
Two of the icons: the one on the left of Christ is from the 14th century.
One the fine bible books with a miniature of Apostel Matthew.
After leaving the Treasury Father Matthew also show another room, where al the icons are kept in storage, like in a modern museum. I do not know where this is, I’ll have to ask next time when visiting Vatopedi.
This ends the photo tour of the treasury.
To conclude this post, I show you three more photos of the trapeza, which was renovated in September 2022. The complete roof has been removed and the inside of the trapeza is completely filled with scaffolding. I wonder if it’s done by now….
Wim Voogd, 1-9-2023